Occupy Wall Street and the Democrats


New York magazine published an article called “2012=1968?”  Author John Heilemann implies that Occupy Wall Street should forge the “working alliance between Democrats and the movement” that Todd Gitlin hopes for. But in my view this alliance would be a suicidal disaster; it would rob the movement of its potential to spark real change. OWS needs to fight for remedies to foreclosures, bank ripoffs, grotesque student debt, devastating attacks on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc., while challenging America’s fundamentally unequal and undemocratic economic and political structure. The Democrats, with their deep Wall Street ties, can’t be genuine allies in either dimension. The Dems may be pressured to make some immediate reforms — and we should welcome those reforms– but sustained pressure will come only from a movement independent of them. And of course the Democratic Party can’t and won’t work for a new democratic society free from corporate rule. How could it?

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4 comments on “Occupy Wall Street and the Democrats
  1. Norman says:

    Broken Link and Broken Landy Analysis

    Gitlin’s article’s link is dysfunctional:
    “Page Not Found We apologize for the inconvenience but it appears the link you’ve selected is broken.” Why I am not surprised.

    The mention of electoral politics among socialists is an invitation to a very disturbing conversation. The heat such a conversation creates is in inverse proportion to the power and influence of the socialist movement among Americans.

    Let’s roll out the terms of endearment: Socialists in the Democratic party become: a.) “Labor lieutenants of capitalism,” b.) “gatekeepers of the Democratic Party,”
    c.) “in coalition with the marines,” d.)ex-socialists.

    Of couse the “independent” socialists welcome immediate reforms and will do next to nothing to achieve immediate reforms. Reform is not in their job description.

    Memorable lines from an old debate: a.) from L. Trotsky, “a scratch doesn’t create gangrene,” b.) from Sam H. Friedman, ” The Democratic party is a whore house,” c.) from P. Feldman, ” When you enter a whorehouse, you don’t stop with the piano player.”

    Now, Landy tells us it would be “suicide” to enter the DP. There is enough kool-aide to go around comrade.

    • Joanne Landy says:

      response to Norman re: the Democrats and OWS Clever quip about the broken link and broken Landy analysis. I am an appreciator of good quips. For starters, the link is fixed. My apologies.

      But I strongly dispute your statement “Of course the ‘independent’ socialists welcome immediate reforms and will do next to nothing to achieve immediate reforms. Reform is not in their job description.” I and most of the other independent socialists I know work hard for immediate reforms. Personally, I’ve been active in the fight for single payer health care, support for labor strikes, and the struggles against the U.S. wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. What I don’t do is advocate that people enter or work for the Democratic Party, which may grant some of these reforms under great pressure (I hope it does), but which is structurally committed to preserving the U.S. corporate-based order and the foreign policy that flows from that.

  2. Mike Hirsch says:

    Heilemann's piece was more than….

    Heilemann’s piece was much more than a recruiting poster for Democratic Party spear carriers. It was one of the most incisive pieces in the MSM on the occupation, and certainly showed a lot of real reporting and time spent on the ground. I’m not going to deal with the substance of Joanne’s comment–anyone interested can read my own pieces on electoral politics elsewhere in the New Politics archives–but I do think that Joanne should address Heilemann’s big point–that the occupation had no implicit political direction, good, bad or indifferent.  I spent enough time at OWS to see that the basis of coperation was an aversion to anything programatic and a push instead for direction against general grievances. That was its genius, and also a weakess in the longer term. Anyone pushing for independent political action, ie independent of support for any Democratic candidacy no matter how insurgent, was no more popular at OWS than was any form of electoral politics or even political action. For Joanne’s take to have salience, IMHO, she has to address the dirth of politics per se in the OWS, which veered in the main from anarchism of the Nechayev sort to countercultural or alternative institutions prefiguring the future society. In the short run, that spirit was fine, because it focused on the key issue in American society: inequality, or “them” and “us,” and it was done in a way that we socialists could only admire. Admire and respect, because they did for public discourse something we never could do. But now that brute police power has put paid to all but a few of the OWS efforts, the reality of politics intrudes. What is a practical politics for this movement. I never believed that co-optation by Democrats was possible; Between the DP’s gutlessness in the face of corporate money and the OWS’s apolitical bias, the Democrats were no more likely  to take this thing over or derail it or all the aweful things we lefties feared than were the Ron Paul zombies, who did put sweat equity into working the occupations. So Heilemann should be congratulated on a first rate piece of reportage, and Joanne, if you think Democratic cooptation is a real threat, what politics would you be pushing? What practical work would you have proposed? And how would you have gotten a hearing, given the anarcho sensibilities of the nonleader leaders.      

    • Mike Hirsch says:

      Typo (my bad)

      This sentence should read  (see bold) “I spent enough time at OWS to see that the basis of coperation was an aversion to anything programatic and a push instead for direct action against general grievances.”

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